It's been easy to find Plymouth's linebackers the past month or so.
Just follow the sound of the cracking pads.
While the Wildcats' defensive ascension has been a team-wide effort in the weeks following the team's 36-0 Week 7 loss to Canton, it's the linebacking unit that has spearheaded the renaissance.
Leading the charge have been senior Tony Rhodes, a no-nonsense run-stuffer; junior Tyler Goble, one of the team's leading tacklers in addition to serving as the Wildcats' starting center; Faris Abraham, a fearless hitter; sure-tackling Phil Schultz; and up-and-coming sophomore speedster Stefan Turrentine.
"Some of those kids aren't right," Plymouth head coach Mike Sawchuk joked. "They're so intense and they're not afraid to put there nose in there. It's a very unselfish group, too. A lot of times they have to take on fullback or the pulling guard so that somebody else can make the tackle. It's a great group of kids."
Thanks to a large degree to its linebacker play, Plymouth's defense has yielded just seven points in each of its past three playoff games to teams that had been averaging close to 35 points per contest.
"We're a lot more disciplined and we've been practicing a lot better than we did earlier in the season," said Goble, a fierce competitor who combines fearlessness with athleticism. "We all like to play physical and we just grind."
"The day after we lost to Canton, we decided to just start really getting after it more in practice," said Rhodes, who missed the Wildcats' 17-7 victory over the Chiefs two weeks ago due to an ankle injury.
Although not yet 100 percent, the gutsy Rhodes returned last week to help lead the Wildcats' conquest of Novi Detroit Catholic Central.
"We love Tony and it was really important to get him back against CC," said Abraham. "He's such a big part of this team."
"Tony has a screw loose I think when he gets those pads on," Sawchuk said, smiling. "He was so fired up to play against Catholic Central. He did a great job of blowing up their iso blocker, even though he wasn't at 100 percent. He's a fun player to coach because you know he's going to be fired up and ready to play every single day."
Goble may be the unit's most cerebral 'backer, Sawchuk said.
"Tyler is a very intellectual player," said Sawchuk. "When we're watching film, he'll ask a lot of questions like, 'What if they do this, or what if that guy does that?' We can put him anywhere: at Sam (strongside), Mike (middle linebacker) or Will (weakside) and he'll get the job done."
Sawchuk distributed high praise to Schultz, Abraham and Turrentine as well.
"Phil plays tight end, too, and he does the job no matter where we put him. He knows every position, which is so important with what we're doing. And Faris is a battering ram. He's so tough and selfless out there.
"Turrentine is young, but he's going to be a special one. It's great that he's been getting so much playing time the past few weeks because it's only going to help him down the road. He's the fastest one of the bunch."
When asked to describe their style, Goble kept it simple.
"Everybody just tries to get to the ball on every play," he said.
"And we all like to hit," Abraham added, as the his four pads-cracking teammates nodded in agreement.
Ed Wright can be reached at (734) 453-1980 or email@example.com.